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Jackson v. Gokey

United States District Court, W.D. New York

April 10, 2017

JOSEPH JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
No. B. GOKEY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          RICHARD J. ARCARA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Joseph Jackson, a prisoner confined at Attica Correctional Facility, has filed a Second Amended Complaint. Docket No. 16. Plaintiff has also moved for assignment of counsel (Docket No. 17), and executed a Peralta waiver (Docket No. 18). Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when Defendants falsely accused him of being involved in a riot at Five Points Correctional Facility, assaulted him in its aftermath, denied him medical treatment, and denied him due process of law at his disciplinary hearing, as more specifically detailed in the Second Amended Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, some of Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, while some will proceed to service.

         DISCUSSION

         Sections 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(a) of 28 U.S.C. require the Court to conduct an initial screening of this Second Amended Complaint. In evaluating the Second Amended Complaint, the Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations and must draw all inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003) (per curiam); King v. Simpson, 189 F.3d 284, 287 (2d Cir. 1999). While “a court is obliged to construe [pro se] pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations, ” McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004), even pleadings submitted pro se must meet the notice requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2004). “Specific facts are not necessary, ” and the plaintiff “need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Boykin v. Keycorp, 521 F.3d 202, 213 (2d Cir 2008) (discussing pleading standard in pro se cases after Twombly -“even after Twombly, dismissal of a pro se claim as insufficiently pleaded is appropriate only in the most unsustainable of cases.”).

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "To state a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege that the challenged conduct (1) was attributable to a person acting under color of state law, and (2) deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Whalen v. County of Fulton, 126 F.3d 400, 405 (2d. Cir. 1997) (citing Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 875-76 (2d Cir.1994)). Based on the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b) while others may proceed to service.

         Plaintiff's Allegations. Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted, denied medical care, and denied due process at his prison disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff states that he had been in the yard on October 21, 2012 at Five Points when a riot occurred (Docket No. 16, p. 6). Inmates were told to line up along the fence, and order was restored. Plaintiff argued with John Doe 1, denying involvement in the riot, noting that his lip was not bleeding. (Id.). A sergeant directed that Plaintiff be separated from the other inmates nonetheless. Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in flex cuffs and beaten by both John Doe 1 and John Doe 2. (Id. at 6-7).

         Upon arrival in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”), Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Jane Doe (Id. at 7). Plaintiff complained of rib and shoulder injuries to Defendant Jane Doe who “never took immediate action as if to say - you don't look hurt so you'll be fine” and provided no treatment. (Id. at 7-8). Plaintiff references Exhibit D as proof that, when he was transferred to Southport Correctional Facility, he was taken to an outside hospital for “rib and kidney diagnosis”. (Id. at 9, 23). Exhibit D indicates that Plaintiff's primary care provider had recommended a renal ultrasound, and that the recommendation would be considered to determine medical necessity. Plaintiff states that he “was later taken to an outside hospital for rib and kidney diagnosis.” (Id.).

         At Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing, he states that he was denied access to video footage of the riot which would have shown that he was not involved. Plaintiff alleges that the video was reviewed by other staff members, but that Defendant Colvin falsely claimed that there was no video (Id. 8). Plaintiff received 40 months in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) and 36 months loss of good time. These were later modified to 24 months SHU and 24 months loss of good time.

         Heck and Peralta. Preliminarily, in addition to time spent in the Special Housing Unit and attendant sanctions, Plaintiff has lost good time credits. This impacts the overall length of his confinement. It is well settled that when a litigant makes a constitutional challenge to a determination which affects the overall length of his imprisonment, the “sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). See also Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) (an inmate's claim for damages resulting from due process violations during his criminal trial was not cognizable under ' 1983 until the conviction or sentence was invalidated on direct appeal or by a habeas corpus petition). In Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997), the Supreme Court “made clear that Heck's favorable termination rule applies to challenges made under ' 1983 to procedures used in disciplinary proceedings that deprived a prisoner of good-time credits.” Peralta v. Vasquez, 467 F.3d 98, 103 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing and discussing Edwards). Heck's requirement of a favorable termination, however, does not preclude a ' 1983 claim challenging sanctions that do not affect the overall length of confinement. See Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 754 (2004); Jenkins v. Haubert, 179 F.3d 19, 21 (2d Cir.1999). In Peralta, the Second Circuit addressed the impact of the Heck requirement on claims that challenge “mixed sanctions” (some affecting the overall length of confinement and others that do not), and held that:

a prisoner subject to such mixed sanctions can proceed separately, under ' 1983, with a challenge to the sanctions affecting his conditions of confinement without satisfying the favorable termination rule, but that he can only do so if he is willing to forgo once and for all any challenge to any sanctions that affect the duration of his confinement. In other words, the prisoner must abandon, not just now, but also in any future proceeding, any claims he may have with respect to the duration of his confinement that arise out of the proceeding he is attacking in his current ' 1983 suit.

Peralta, 467 F.3d at 104 (emphasis in original).

         Plaintiff has provided the Court with a waiver forgoing once and for all any challenge to any sanctions that affect the duration of his confinement (Docket No. 18). Plaintiff's § 1983 claims regarding due process are therefore reviewed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A.

         Disciplinary Hearing.

         The only constitutional violation that could occur under the facts alleged in the Second Amended Complaint is if Plaintiff were not provided adequate due process during the disciplinary proceeding. In such a case, Plaintiff's claim is not based on the truth or falsity of the testimony but instead on the conduct of the hearing itself. Plaintiff alleges that a video of the riot existed, was reviewed by staff at the facility, and that Defendant Colvin nonetheless denied Plaintiff access to the video at his hearing, claiming falsely that there ...


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